The Solar Panel Timeline: How Solar Power Became The New Favorite Energy Source
Although solar power is currently a favorite form of renewable energy, it hasn’t always been so popular. Enormous technological leaps had to be made to get us where we are today, but what did those leaps look like? If you’ve ever been curious, you’re in the right place! Let’s walk through the solar power timeline from the past to the present.
The 19th Century: Solar Cells and Panels
These days, using a solar panel to charge 12v battery or even your home appliances isn’t unheard of. However, there’s a rich history behind our current understanding of solar technology. Although solar power has been used to start fires since 700 BC, ancient civilizations weren’t quite ready to develop full-blown solar panels. This didn’t occur until the 19th century, although you may find it surprising that this journey started over two hundred years ago!
It was in 1839 that the first solar cell was created. Astonishingly, this world-altering invention was designed by a teenager! Nineteen-year-old French physicist Alexandre Edmond Becquerel created the first solar cell, also known as a photovoltaic cell, capable of carrying an electric current via a light source.
Despite this breakthrough, it wouldn’t be until 1883 – almost fifty years later – that the first functioning solar panel was introduced. An American inventor, Charles Fritts, created solar panels with lines of solar cells made from selenium wafers. However, although functional, they were exceptionally inefficient, providing a conversion rate of just 1%.
The 20th Century: Einstein, Tesla, Panels, and Patents!
The turn of the century brought a significant number of new innovations. In fact, it would be Albert Einstein that made leaps toward the solar technology we know and love today. In 1905, Einstein published a paper explaining his ‘photoelectric effect’ theory, which described how the sun creates energy via solar cells.
In the following decade, Robert Milikan performed an experiment to test this theory and proved once and for all that the sun does, in fact, create energy via solar cells. This new understanding led to the production of the first high-power silicon solar panel in 1954, with mass production starting almost a decade later. As further research throughout the 70s drove down production costs, solar panels became increasingly affordable.
The 21st Century: A New Kind of Renewable Energy
In light of the climate crisis, many of us are looking for new ways to power our homes in more energy-efficient ways. Solar power is at the center of this discussion, and legislation was created throughout the 2000s to this end, namely the Energy Policy Act of 2005. Now, in 2023, with a 30% solar tax credit available to certain homes, there’s never been a better time to get involved with solar power.
None of us can know for sure where solar power will take us next or if a new renewable energy may take its place at the top spot. For now, there’s no better way to do your bit for the environment than by investing in solar energy. It’s clean, it’s green, and it’s entirely renewable. It’s the future!